Tag Archives: peril

17Jul/18

Magic or Die (Inner Demons 1) by J P Jackson

J. P. Jackson has recently been on our show to tell us about Magic or Die. To find links and support his work, check out Episode 169: Put Strange Things In Your Mouth

Nice bit of world building from J.P. Jackson, author of Daimonion, and a great addition to the horror/fantasy genres. This is his second novel and it shows, with a surer hand and confidence in the writing. It’s unfair to compare the two books because they are so different. Daimonion was a good, gory read, but with Magic Or Die, the self-assured plotting, scene-building and dialogue make for a book that is more accessible to people unused to the demon genre.

In a nutshell, we have James who has his own demons, namely guilt, grief and alcohol. The blurb describes him as an alcoholic, but I wouldn’t have gone that far. Yes, he uses drink to numb his pain, but he seems to function perfectly well once he has his five students on-side and they are fighting for survival. He only has a few months to get them under control and able to use their powers in a way convenient to a sinister organisation (CMRD – read blurb). If he fails, it’s curtains for all of them. I won’t say more because this is a review, not a synopsis, but you get the idea.

I love the way the author has made everything very clear. From the start, I knew what the modus was, and the problems James has to overcome in order to achieve it. I understood the difference between Arcanes and Elementals because all that information is right there, and so often in these genres it just isn’t. He manages this without patronising the newbie or alienating readers experienced in the genre. In short, it’s a bloody good, enjoyable read.

The students all had their own demons (surely an allegory for real life.) I was waiting for the poison pill, the one to screw things up for everyone else. There is a candidate, but I won’t spoil it. The real boo-hiss villain is Miriam, a cross between Cruella de Ville and that evil witch from The Emperor’s New Groove. Maybe she is a little too much of a caricature, but it’s a small point in a book of interesting characters and curious dilemmas, all set within the confines of a strange, maze-like building without any obvious means of escape. The students are a lively bunch, honey-toned Isaiah and his lascivious, blue-eyed demon, enraged Chris, unable to fully control his inner fire wolf, the anime-like Ning and ethereal Camila and Annabelle. All have spectacular skills which, if not harnessed, are a threat to civilisation. The atmosphere is eery, with beautiful descriptions as each display their power. The sexual tension between James and Isaiah is subtle rather than full-on. It was a fun, spooky, tense mix, with a good building of atmosphere and an exciting finale. A solid start to a promising series.

BLURB

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

 

24Jul/17

Oliver & Jack at Lodgings In Lyme by Christina E. Pilz

REVIEW

I was gifted an ARC of this book in return for an honest and fair review.

I don’t usually start a series in the middle, but I wanted to read Lodgings in Lyme as I know the area reasonably well. Also, I would be reading the book at the very time I would be staying there.

I had no idea what to expect, going into the series completely cold. This is the continuing saga of two young men who love each other, but haven’t acknowledged it physically yet, an audacious, yet not terribly serious, tale of what it was like to be young, gay, and the wrong side of the law in the 1880’s. Jack and Oliver (Jack “Artful Dodger” Dawkins and Oliver Twist – all grown up) are on the run and have to get out of London after a crime that would see Oliver hanged if he was found out. Jack has some nebulous plan to head to Lyme Regis to find out more about his long lost family, but before that, they have to stay one step ahead of the law. Jack is also injured and getting more unwell by the moment, and spending hours in a creaky, leaky coach isn’t doing his health any good at all.

First off, one minor niggle to point out and put aside. The cover, stunning as it is, but the picture is not of Lyme Regis! Call me petty, but it did make me question the quality of the book before I had even opened it. Some readers might then start picking holes in the fabric of the book on this point alone, but that would be a shame, because aside from the artistic licence given to the photograph, the author has obviously researched her subject with forensic detail. The historical setting and language is convincing. She hasn’t tried to ape Dickens; not at all, but put her own spin on two well-loved characters and in doing so, made them her own.

Oliver is still the golden boy, possibly able to get away with murder, and Jack is the wild card, still not able to let go of his thieving ways, missing the “craft” of what he does best. He is ill-mannered, even to those who want to help him, which doesn’t make him that sympathetic. It seems as if Oliver’s charms aren’t rubbing off on him yet. I hope they do, because at the moment, I don’t care for him very much at all. Considering the precarious position they are in, relying on the charity of strangers, his behaviour seems self-destructive at best. His only redeeming feature is his obvious love for Oliver, and the lengths he will go to, to protect him. Oliver, on the other hand, seems very capable of looking after himself, and his doe-eyed innocence does not seem very convincing after a while. They are an odd couple but somehow, it works.

I loved the authentic voices, the descriptive scenes and historical detail, all given a lightness of touch which saves this series from being weighty and full of its own importance. Instead, there is a mischievousness to the dialogue and tenderness during the intimate scenes. The sex, when it happens, is not lengthy or lurid, but is well-written and cleverly dealt with. Sexy, yes, but not gratuitously so.

In the end, I would be very intrigued to discover the fate of these two men. History shows us that a HEA isn’t really feasible, but this is MM historical fiction, and anything can happen. It will be interesting to find out. I just hope that Jack relinquishes his uncouth ways before they lead both him and Oliver to the gallows.

 

BLURB

An ex-apprentice and his street thief companion flee the dangers of Victorian London and the threat of the hangman’s noose in search of family and the promise of a better life.

After Oliver Twist commits murder to protect Jack Dawkins (The Artful Dodger), both must flee London’s familiar but dangerous environs for safety elsewhere. Together they travel to Lyme Regis in the hopes of finding Oliver’s family. Along the way, Jack becomes gravely ill and Oliver is forced to perform manual labor to pay for the doctor’s bills.

While Oliver struggles to balance his need for respectability with his growing love for Jack, Jack becomes disenchanted with the staid nature of village life and his inability to practice his trade. But in spite of their personal struggles, and in the face of dire circumstances, they discover the depth of their love for each other.